When you have arthritis, everyday activities like brushing your teeth become more difficult. If you don't continue to brush and floss daily, you'll be at a higher risk of developing tooth loss, gum disease, and dental infections. Be sure to let your dentist know you have arthritis so he or she can help you take good care of your teeth. These are some of the things you'll want to discuss.
Using Adaptive Equipment
If you have arthritis in your fingers and hands, you may not be able to grasp a toothbrush. If the arthritis affects the joint in your jaw, you might have difficulty holding your mouth open long enough to brush and floss. Your dentist can recommend the best equipment to use so you can continue good oral hygiene even if you can't brush and floss in the traditional way. Some options are using a toothbrush with a large handle.
You could try an electric toothbrush since those have handles large enough to hold batteries. Another option is an ultrasonic toothbrush since those do a lot of the work of dislodging food and plaque. You won't have to brush as vigorously if you use an electric or ultrasonic brush. A water pick may be useful too. You can direct a stream of water between your teeth, which eliminates the need to struggle with floss.
Effects Of Medication
Let your dentist know about all the medications you take, even over-the-counter pills and supplements. Some of them may increase your risk of bleeding. Others may compromise your immune system. Your dentist will want to know about these drugs before doing any procedures that could cause you to bleed excessively or heal slowly. Also, if you have had joint replacement surgery for treatment of your arthritis, your dentist may want to give you antibiotics before doing any dental procedures so your risk of infection is lower.
One reason it is so important to take care of your teeth when you have arthritis is because undergoing treatment may be difficult for you. If you do develop cavities, you should have them treated early while they are still small. If you have multiple cavities, it may be better to have several dental visits to fill them rather than trying to do them all at once. You may not be able to hold your jaw open very long, and the unnatural position of holding your mouth open could cause you pain later.
Also, you'll want to work with your dentist to track your pain. If there is pain from arthritis in your jaw and TMJ joint, you may confuse it with a toothache. Your dentist can help you figure out the best way to manage pain that originates in your mouth or jaw. He or she may need to give you a splint or mouth guard to hold your mouth in a position that relieves pain in your jaw joint.
While you want to receive regular dental care as recommended by your dentist, it's probably best to postpone visits when your arthritis is flaring so you can avoid the added stress of dental work.
For professional dental work, contact a dentist such as Stephen P. Cary, DMD.